NIDA Humphrey Fellows End a Busy Year Amid COVID-19

The 2019-2020 NIDA Humphrey Fellows
The 2019-2020 NIDA Humphrey Fellows are, from left, Dr. Oleg Lukyanovych, Ukraine; NIDA International Fellowships Administrator Lisa Jordre; NIDA International Program Director Dr. Steve Gust; Leticia Keuroglian, Uruguay; Kristina Köhler, Estonia; Sumaira, Pakistan; Eugeniu Cotelea, Republic of Moldova; Adam Kurilla, Slovakia; Marcella Katjijova, Namibia; Heftziba Golan Rand, Israel; Virginia Commonwealth University Humphrey Program Director Dr. J. Randy Koch; Lalchhanhima Ralte, India; and Venant Mligo, Tanzania.

Due to COVID-19, the year didn’t end quite the way NIDA Hubert H. Humphrey Drug Abuse Research Fellows had envisioned. Professional affiliations for the 2019–2020 NIDA Humphrey Fellows were either held virtually or canceled. Their posters will not be presented at the NIDA International Forum because the meeting was canceled. And some fellows left for home abruptly to avoid travel restrictions. But before the chaos, the Humphrey Fellows had a busy, productive year.

The 10 professionals participated in several programs throughout fall 2019 to learn more about NIDA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and U.S. and international organizations involved in substance abuse policy, research, and capacity building. In September, NIDA International Program Director Steve Gust, Ph.D., and Fellowships Administrator Lisa Jordre traveled to Virginia Commonwealth University to meet the fellows. In October, NIDA organized a meeting during the U.S. Department of State Global Leadership Forum so that fellows could hear from Becky Vaughn, Colombo Plan Global Credentialing and Certification Centre; Anne Chick, U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs; Maristela Monteiro, Pan American Health Organization; Marya Hynes, Inter-American Observatory on Drugs, Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission; and Christopher O’Connell, SAMHSA. In November, NIDA and SAMHSA welcomed the fellows to their headquarters, where fellows met with agency experts. NIDA staff members who participated in the orientation included Dr. Gust; Emily Einstein, Ph.D., and Brian Marquis, Office of Science Policy and Communications; Carrie Mulford, Ph.D., and Jaqueline Lloyd, Ph.D., M.S.W., Division of Epidemiology, Services and Prevention Research; and Carmen Rosa, M.S., Clinical Trials Network. Marya Levintova, Ph.D., Fogarty International Center, described Fogarty’s tobacco, trauma, social, and behavioral programs that are supported by NIDA and other National Institutes of Health components.

The 2019-2020 NIDA Hubert H. Humphrey Drug Abuse Research Fellows were:

Adam Kurilla, M.S. (Slovakia), is a clinical psychologist and junior researcher at the Center for Treatment of Drug Dependencies, and is a certified psychotherapist in cognitive-behavioral therapy. Prior to joining the Center for Treatment of Drug Dependencies, Mr. Kurilla worked as a psychologist and coordinator for housing and social counseling services at a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that provided social and psychological services for people with mental disorders. During his Humphrey Fellowship, Mr. Kurilla focused on improving his research skills as well as his knowledge about evidence-based treatments for behavioral addictions including their implementation and evaluation.

Eugeniu Cotelea, M.D. (Republic of Moldova), is a certified narcologist and a member of the Moldovan Society of Psychiatrists, Narcologists, Psychotherapists, and Psychologists. Dr. Cotelea has provided medical and psychological interventions for people who have a variety of addiction disorders, and has presented and published work on assessing and treating tuberculosis in substance abusers. During his fellowship, Dr. Cotelea learned more about U.S. approaches to preventing and treating addiction, medical informatics, and biostatistics.

Heftziba Golan Rand (Israel) is a psychotherapist who served as director of a treatment center for youth victims of sexual assault operated by the Elem Association and the Ministry of Welfare in Afula, Israel. The center provides individual, family, and group treatments for victims of sexual assault. The center also offers diagnosis and treatment for children with harmful sexual conduct and has developed a community education and prevention program on sexual assault. In 2017, she joined a Knesset committee where she mentored a group of lawyers advocating on behalf of sexual assault victims and their families. Since 2016, Ms. Rand has volunteered with a humanitarian delegation providing psychosocial care to Syrian refugees to reduce the effects of trauma on children. During her fellowship, she worked to identify potential partnerships and resources that can enhance her work providing legal, medical, psychiatric, and other therapeutic support to youth victims of sexual assault. 

Kristina Köhler (Estonia) is an advisor in the analysis and statistics department at the Ministry of Social Affairs, focusing on development plans and strategies to ensure that health-related issues are addressed in accordance with current policies. She has been actively involved in policy development related to obesity and nutrition, particularly the sugar-sweetened beverages tax. She has collaborated with organizations such as the World Health Organization, the European Commission, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. During her fellowship, Ms. Köhler focused on improving her public health policy and management skills and learning more about the process of translating research into policy and evidence-based policy tools. She also worked to enhance her skills related to project management, public speaking, data visualization, and public health intervention development and evaluation.

Lalchhanhima Ralte, M.B.B.S. (India) holds post-graduate degrees in public health and HIV management. At the Presbyterian Church of Mizoram’s Synod Hospital, Dr. Ralte is in charge of the substance abuse detoxification ward and HIV and palliative care units. He also is actively involved in community and professional activities related to substance abuse and HIV in Mizoram, India. He conducts research on behalf of the Mizoram Presbyterian Church on substance abuse topics ranging from alcohol to amphetamine use among the rural Mizo culture. Dr. Ralte was instrumental in the implementation of India’s Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of 1985 in Mizoram, making it easier for palliative care patients to access morphine. During his fellowship, Dr. Ralte studied innovative substance abuse prevention approaches, their implementation, and impact. He also strengthened his knowledge and skills in research and explored how faith-based organizations deal with harm reduction strategies.

Leticia Keuroglian (Uruguay) is a technical assessor for the National Drug Board of the Presidency of the Republic of Uruguay. As a graduate student, she volunteered in a drug rehabilitation center and was the leading researcher for a study focused on analyzing drug use in one Montevideo neighborhood. At the National Drug Board, she conducts research for the Uruguayan Drug Observatory and manages two information systems: a treatment register and the Early Warning System to track the use of new psychoactive substances and emerging drug trends. During her fellowship, Ms. Keuroglian focused on enhancing her knowledge about drug research methods, new data analysis techniques, and U.S. drug surveillance.

Marcella Katjijova (Namibia) is a psychological counselor at the Ministry of Labor where she provides individual therapy, career counseling, pre-retirement counseling, and school programs on addiction and sexual violence. She travels extensively throughout the region as a liaison to area social workers helping to identify and address community needs. Ms. Katjijova has held various leadership roles in the community, serving on the Regional Gender Permanent Task Force that assists both men and women who have experienced sexual violence, human trafficking, and rape. In 2016, Ms. Katjijova became the general secretary for the Southern African Development Community Youth Network, an organization whose mission is to alleviate poverty and enhance the lives of southern Africans by achieving sustainable development and economic growth. Ms. Katjijova was awarded the Mandela Washington Fellowship in 2017 for her civic leadership. During her NIDA Humphrey fellowship, Ms. Katjijova focused on improving her research, counseling, and public speaking skills as well as increasing her knowledge about innovative substance use prevention and treatment models.

Oleg Lukyanovych, M.D. (Ukraine), is an obstetrician and gynecologist with 25 years of experience providing clinical care to patients, and 8 years of administrative experience as the head of the gynecology department at Vinnytsia Clinical Maternity Hospital No. 1. From 2002 to 2017, Dr. Lukyanovych chaired the board of directors for Public Health Fund, a local NGO in Vinnytsia that he also founded. The NGO developed and implemented programs on reproductive health, HIV/AIDS prevention, and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, and assisted rural hospitals in the Vinnytsia region with creating electronic medical records. From 2010 to 2014, Dr. Lukyanovych participated as a national expert on the Ukrainian-Swiss Program “Mother and Child Health.” As a result of this work, he created two clinical protocols for the Ministry of Health, published three guidelines, and conducted numerous workshops for medical doctors throughout Ukraine. His area of interest is public health policy and management. During his fellowship, Dr. Lukyanovych focused on developing the skills he needs to be more effective in implementing medical reforms in Ukraine.

Sumaira (Pakistan) is a drug prevention coordinator at the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme, working to improve the quality of life for people living in remote communities in the Gilgit-Baltistan region. Ms. Sumaira has more than 5 years of professional experience working with substance abuse prevention programs. In her current position, she leads community-based awareness programs, school-based skills initiatives, and family-focused development activities for youth and women. In addition, she has utilized her training experience with Aga Khan Foundation and Global Affairs Canada to create interactive counseling and training materials addressing relapse prevention. Ms. Sumaira is a volunteer member at the Aga Khan Social Welfare Board and the Aga Khan Youth and Sports Board, where she works closely with at-risk youth. She is determined to reduce the increasing trend of drug abuse in educational institutions through evidence-based prevention strategies, particularly opium abuse among girls in Gilgit-Baltistan. During her fellowship, Ms. Sumaira worked on learning more about how to design and develop relevant communication strategies and policies based on international best practices in the areas of prevention and education regarding substance abuse.

Venant Mligo (Tanzania) is a former secondary school teacher with more than 10 years of experience managing and monitoring student welfare programs including substance abuse prevention and gender-based violence services. Mr. Mligo also has worked with the Tanzania Ministry of Home Affairs in the division for Crime and Substances Abuse Prevention, and he has participated in many training programs sponsored by the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peacekeeping Operations Training Institute, and United Nations organizations including the UN Development Program, UN Human Rights Council, and UNICEF. Mr. Mligo is the founder of Youth Education Support, a community-based organization that provides counseling services to youth with substance use disorders. Since 2013, Mr. Mligo has led a voluntary youth empowerment program that teaches life skills and provides guidance and counseling to youth. He has conducted research on adolescent substance use and HIV/AIDS. Mr. Mligo’s goals for his fellowship included enhancing his knowledge of substance use education, prevention strategies, treatment programs, and research methods. Once he has completed his fellowship, he hopes to implement a national rehabilitation program for students with substance use disorders in Tanzania.